Firefighting, WorkCover and OHS

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia – 2011 July 10: Fire fighters supporting colleague on roof gaining access to a garage on fire in an residential area.

Some years ago there was a rumour that no workers’ compensation claims by firefighters employed by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) were investigated and/or rejected by the MFB. The reason was that the United Firefighters’ Union would question any investigation on behalf of its members which would likely result in increased industrial relations tension.

Workers compensation data obtained by SafetyAtWorkBlog from the MFB under Freedom of Information seems to have scotched that rumour but does provide some interesting information which may also justify radical workplace health and safety thinking for this sector.

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More work needed on public evacuation protocols

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On 12 July 2017 a kitchen fire broke out in a densely packed restaurant and cafe sector of Melbourne, Australia.  This article illustrates some of the localised response and firefighting attempts.  Earlier that day I was in a cafe in Melbourne’s northern suburbs when the building’s evacuation alarm sounded (pictured right).  There was no fire in the cafe and patrons were confused when directed to evacuate by a voice on the speaker/alarm system.  This confusion was not helped when the young waiters told patrons to stay, kept serving patrons and  continued to take orders.  This experience illustrates significant misunderstandings about emergency protocols in public areas. Continue reading “More work needed on public evacuation protocols”

Risk assessment early in development of residential storage battery standard

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Australia’s Royal Commission into Home Insulation program (HIP) seemed to have had little long-term impact beyond the closing of the environmental subsidy scheme and political attacks.  However, controversial environment reporter, Graham Lloyd, in an article in The Australian on 11 July 2017 (only available through paywall), has identified a HIP legacy as causing restrictions on the installation of residential batter storage. Continue reading “Risk assessment early in development of residential storage battery standard”

Grenfell Tower and other incidents illustrate major deficiencies in OHS perceptions

A recent investigative report into workplace safety at Los Alamos laboratory in the United States included this statement:

“The Center’s probe revealed worker safety risks, previously unpublicized accidents, and dangerously lax management practices at other nuclear weapons-related facilities. The investigation further found that penalties for these practices were relatively light, and that many of the firms that run these facilities were awarded tens of millions of dollars in profits in the same years that major safety lapses occurred. Some were awarded new contracts despite repeated, avoidable accidents, including some that exposed workers to radiation.”

The whole article deserves reading but this paragraph in particular illustrates that deficiencies in procurement apply to large organisations in high risk sectors just as much as it can in the small to medium-sized business sector.  A major reason is that detailed and diligent procurement has been seen as red tape and it seems to have taken disasters like Grenfell Tower to illustrate the moral deficiencies and short-term economic fantasies of

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Firefighters’ mental health

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More details are appearing of the findings of an independent inquiry into mental health and suicides in the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB), a report whose release has been stalled by the United Firefighters’ Union (UFU).

cover-bullying-health-sectorAccording to the inquiry’s chair, in an article in the ABC news website, Dr Peter Cotton,

“…the MFB has a mono-culture with few women or members from diverse backgrounds, making it difficult to assess the level of bullying and harassment.”

“… the MFB does not screen for alcohol or drug use, and has a lack of policies and procedures to address drug and alcohol issues.”

“Management’s handling of complaints were found to be ad hoc and inconsistent with a “lack of will to follow up” and “give them a wide berth” thought pattern.”

“the mental health of firefighters was comparable with Victoria Police and Ambulance Victoria,…”

The latter point is useful to remember as a similar report into the Victoria Police was released earlier this year. The most recent inquiry into Ambulance Victoria was undertaken by the Victorian Auditor-General in 2016. Continue reading “Firefighters’ mental health”